Composers of the Muse-IC project
Amir Bitran, composer
Amir Bitran is a scientist and a composer whose multi-cultural background is perhaps the most important driving force behind his musical impulse. His upbringing in a mixed Jewish and Latin-American household within the United States has shaped his worldview and defined his musical idiom. Amir’s compositions have been performed in the United States by renowned ensembles including the Grammy-award winning Parker Quartet, the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and the Princeton Singers at the 2018 Lehigh/ACDA choral composers forum, as well as in Italy at the 2016 Cortona Sessions for New Music, and in Mexico by the Grammy-award winning Cuarteto Latinoamericano. Amir is currently a student at Harvard where he studies composition with Osnat Netzer and is pursuing a PhD in biophysics—his other great passion. He is especially interested in understanding how biological molecules, such as proteins and DNA, acquire their functional structures, and how these elegant, complex structures have evolved over time. Amir was doing research in Professor Leonid Mirny’s group when the lab received an invitation from the Muse-IC project to present their scientific work on how DNA acquires its structure. Amir is participating in this project as a scientist, alongside Professor Mirny, as well as a composer. He is eager to use this initiative to combine his lifelong passions, and present exciting scientific advances through an expressive and universal artistic medium.
When DNA Makes Loops, for clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, percussions
inspired by the subject : The Loop-extrusion model, proposed by Leonid Mirny, MIT, États-Unis, and Amir Bitran, Harvard University Program in Biophysics, États-Unis
This work is a musical painting of the DNA in our body, and its fluctuating, elegant dynamics and structures. All the cells in our body all share the same genome (the totality of an organism’s DNA), yet they each perform vastly different functions. These differences arise from variations in how the genome is physically organized, which dictates whether different genes are turned “on” or “off”. This composition depicts the processes by which the genome acquires its diverse structures, focusing on a newly discovered process whereby proteins extrude long fibers of DNA into loops. Musically, these “loops” first emerge out of the viola and are soon passed on to other instruments, where they grow and shrink into more elaborate textures that evoke the concerted action and organization of multiple loops in DNA. But besides this highly directed, driven process, our genome is also sculpted by more passive forces akin to gravity, which cause different portions of DNA to simply collapse and coalesce. This collapse is musically depicted a few minutes into the work by descending glissandi, or sigh-like sonorities. Although these two types of processes lead to contrasting dynamics, they must work in concert to organize the genome. As the piece progresses, a reconciliation of sorts emerges between these different musical textures, which ultimately grows into a grand chorale-like finale. The forces that organize our genome at the microscopic scale are fluctuating and chaotic, yet they collectively give rise to magnificent structures that generate the amazing diversity of life on earth.
Alexandra du Bois, composer
The music of Manhattan-based composer Alexandra du Bois (Ph.D. Stony Brook University; M.M. The Juilliard School; B.M. Indiana University Jacobs School of Music) has been performed in concert halls across five continents—her travels connecting her tangibly to the places that inform and inspire her work—music that “attempts to be a conscience in a time of oblivion” (Kronos Quartet’s David Harrington) and “offers an extraordinary interface between traditional and avant-garde” (New Zealand Herald). Ms. du Bois is a composer of orchestral, chamber, choral, vocal, and multi-discipline works. Described as “an intense, luminous American composer,” (Los Angeles Times) and as “a painter who knows exactly where her picture will be hung” (New York Times), du Bois’ works have been released on Harmonia Mundi, Kronos Quartet, and Perspectives Recordings labels and she has previously been Composer-in-Residence at Dartmouth College, Carnegie Hall with Weill Institute, Merkin Concert Hall, Harrison House, Mammoth Lakes Music Festival and with Southwest Chamber Music throughout Los Angeles and Vietnam.
Quiescence for bass clarinet doubling clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano
inspired by the subject: When our cells sleep: Quiescence and Renaissance, proposed by the Angela Taddei Team, Institut Curie, Paris, France
The idea that cells can be quite active while “sleeping” and that beneath the calm beauty of “sleep” or sound can be the most intense reservoir of emotion, musical textures and active simplicity: this concept and dichotomy of quiescence in cell biology translated directly into music for me and is the core of the quintet. My direct communication with the scientific team deepened this inspiration received via their research and the concept and importance of quiescence and provided a kind of musical intimacy with science.
Melody, effects, rhythmic patterns and layers were inspired by quiescence—that music can be static, inactive and quiet while being simultaneously extremely active. Flickering, stochastic blinking generated from PALM-Microscopy also provided direct musical influence in the quintet. But the translation from the fountain of inspiration I received from the science into music was not literal; I did not want to mimic or act out any scientific process, imagery or research. Instead, this is my personal reaction, and I explored, through the lens of poetry and abstraction, some of the sounds and patterns I associate with imagery, scientific research and motion related to the state of quiescence.
“Abstraction” said Armenian-American painter Arshile Gorky, “allows man to see with his mind what he cannot physically see with his eyes. Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an explosion into unknown areas.”
Quintet: Quiescence is dedicated to Judith Miné-Hattab and the Angela Taddei team.
Geoffrey Gordon, composer
US/UK composer Geoffrey Gordon’s contributions to the contemporary music repertoire have been and continue to be exceptional. His music has been called “darkly seductive” (New York Times), "complex, richly-satisfying " (BBC Music Magazine), "stunning" (Philadelphia Inquirer), “iridescent and fierce” (The Chicago Tribune), “taut and exhilarating” (Classical Ear), “haunting” (Strings Magazine), "gripping" (Bachtrack) and “remarkable” (Fanfare). Chicago Tribune music critic John von Rhein called Mr. Gordon’s lux solis aeterna, “a cosmic beauty ... of acutely crafted music.” The London Philharmonia identifies “his infectious style and “an ear for melody,” the New York Times his “zest for sonic experimentation.”
Recently and upcoming, the Philharmonia gives the premiere of Geoffrey’s Gordon’s bass clarinet concerto “Prometheus,” after the treatment by Franz Kafka, at the RFH, London www.philharmonia.co.uk/concerts/2132, and US and Nordic premieres follow in 2019 with Minnesota Orchestra and Malmo Symphony. His ravishing setting of Keats' “Ode to a Nightingale” for choir and cello premiered in May 2018 in Copenhagen and will feature on a new CD of three of his cello works featuring Copenhagen Philharmonic under Lan Shui. His song cycles, “Peter Quince at the Clavier” and “Sonnets from Neruda” premiered in March 2018 at the Arnold Schoenberg enter, Vienna, and in October 2017 Munich Philharmonic under James Gaffigan premiered his trumpet Concerto "CHASE" after the sculptures of Giacometti. His cello sonata “FATHOMS” premiered at Carnegie Hall in December 2015 and his “Winterleben” for horn, mezzo and piano (commissioned for Los Angeles Philharmonic principal horn, Andrew Bain), premiered in August 2015 as part of the 47th International Horn Symposium in Los Angeles. His “Saint Blue” concerto for trumpet, piano and strings was praised in the BBC Music Magazine and his “Harmonie” for soprano and cello was selected as prize winner in the BCMG Marx Lieder Competition, premiering in Trier and Birmingham in September 2018. Honoured by a number of residencies internationally, he has twice served as composer-in-residence at the Aaron Copland House and is winner of 2017 Mario Merz Prize for Music Composition.
Cosmic inflation and the end of the dark ages for bass clarinet doubling clarinet, piano, harp, string quartet
inspired by the subject: The first vibrations of the universe and the quest for the first galaxy clusters, proposed by Hervé Dole, Institute of Space Astrophysics, Paris-Saclay University, France
So much of my work has been informed, in a variety of ways, by my deep interest in science - not only the science of acoustics and the mechanisms of music as a sonic exploration, but also the many aspects of scientific study which seems to have a natural affiliation with music. From the visible, gleaming, diamond-shaped patterns which appear in the exhaust plumes of aerospace propulsion systems - known as shock diamonds - to the extraordinary properties of neutrinos (which became the basis of my chamber work, lux solis aeterna), I have found music in science. It was therefore a natural connection for me to seek to be a part of the Muse-IC project. I was especially pleased to be able to explore the early universe, as this is a particular interest of mine.
The opportunity to work with astrophysicist Herve Dole was a very special one. His research is extraordinary and creates a natural partnership with sound. I found his work to be profound and truly inspirational. It was a great pleasure to communicate with him (although my schedule is always challenging and proved to be in this case as well!). So much sonic invention is buried in this research into the vibrations and patterns of the early universe – it was only a challenge to confine these ideas to a ten minute chamber work! There are many corollaries to be found in my score which follow on directly from Prof. Dole’s research – from the cosmic inflation of the early universe after the big bang to the transparency of the universe and the dispersal of light that followed. It is all there to be discovered. This score expresses the violence and transparency of those intense moments of creation as a musical landscape of tone clusters and glassy harmonics, snap string pizzicati, flashing harp glissandi and deep groans from the bass clarinet. In ten concise minutes, the music of this extraordinary moment in the life of the universe is expressed and explored. There is math in the music, but the sound of creation, inspired by science, is realized here as pure sound.
And this crossover of science and sound will continue to influence my work, I am sure, far into my own future as a composer.
Jean-Marie Gagez, composer, is an associate of musicology and holds a Master’s degree and has been awarded four first prizes of the National Conservatory of Music of Paris. He trained with renowned musicians such as Jean-François Zygel and Jean-Claude Reynaud for harmony, Pierre Pincemailles for counterpoint, Olivier Trachier for ancient polyphonies and Guillaume Connesson and Marc-André Dalbavie for orchestration. He became known in 2011 for collaborating with the Ministries of Culture and Ecology who commissioned him to work on the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Cordouan lighthouse, a work that was created at sea in the chapel of the lighthouse. In 2013, he was artist-in-residence at Gargenville, in the former home of Nadia Boulanger where he began composing a series of works for ancient instruments. His repertoire ranges from solo works to choral and symphonic works.
The ways of light, for cello
inspired by the subject: The first vibrations of the universe and the quest for the first clusters of galaxies, proposed by Hervé Doyle, Institute of Space Astrophysics, Paris-Saclay University, France
When I became aware of the "MUSE-IC" call for projects of contemporary compositions, I was immediately seduced by the idea of combining music and cutting-edge scientific research. Composition being by nature a solitary work, this project represented for me a rare and precious opportunity to confront me with a different apprehension of things that could enrich my practice.
Passionate since childhood by everything that touches to space, I naturally turned to the subjects of astrophysics. In order to choose one in all conscience, I first met each of the researchers who all took the time to patiently explain their work, often very complex with a lot of pedagogy, before opting for the subject of Hervé Dole, which seemed to me the most appropriate to set to music: the first vibrations of the universe and the quest for the first clusters of galaxies. I came up with two main ideas, the first concerning the appearance of light. Up to 380,000 after the Big Bang, the cosmos seem dense and opaque. But at this time, the universe becomes transparent, revealing the light of fossil radiation. The universe is then illuminated, but this light is diffuse because the localized light sources that are the stars and the galaxies have not yet appeared.
The second idea is that, as a result of its expansion, the universe dilutes and cools, leading to the inversion of the energetic relationship between light and matter. The light will gradually lose its dominance and it is the material that will take control of the affairs of the universe. Gravity will grow seeds of galaxies, detected as tiny fluctuations in temperature of the fossil radiation. More and more elaborate structures make their appearance over time until the gaseous balls forming the stars light up, marking the end of the pre-stellar era.
With this work I wanted to translate in a poetic way the feeling of wonder at this cosmic process. Because of the richness and diversity of their timbre, the bowed string instruments were ideal for this project. After several attempts with different combinations, the choice to use a single instrument - the cello - appeared to me to be an obvious one to reflect both the initial unity and homogeneity of the universe. This evidence has been reinforced by the possibility of a correspondence between the four strings of the cello and the four fundamental forces that govern the universe: the gravitational force that reigns over the infinitely large, the electromagnetic force that imposes its law on light, the weak interaction force and the strong interaction force that ensure the cohesion of the atomic nuclei. There is also a nod to the famous String Theory which attempts to reconcile quantum physics and general relativity by stating that all these forces come at the origin of a single element: the strings ... The four open strings of the instrument forms the basic material of this work built on two contrasting moments: the first, more contemplative, evokes the gradual emergence of light around the idea of transparency by harmonic effects. The second, more rhythmic, seeks to translate the powers of matter organizing to form the first clusters of galaxies.
One of the major stakes of the piece rests on the double paradox of wanting to evoke the unfolding of the infinitely large on vertiginous durations with a piece of barely ten minutes long written for a single instrument. Perhaps this is a sketch for a future work of greater expanse.
Emmanuel Hieaux was born in Dreux in 1958. He received training in both music and literature: Piano studies at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Musique de Paris and a BA in English literature and literature at the University of Nanterre. As such, the correspondences of music with other forms of artistic expression have been at the origin of several of his scores, such as: On three Poems of Eluard for violin and piano, the following “And God saw that it was good” from the paintings of the painter Guillaume Villaros, an integral music score for the film “Aurora Murnau” and the story “Hänsel & Gretel” by Grimm. His meeting with the pianist Yvonne Lafarge was very formative, as were his studies of writing and composition under the direction of Jacques Castérède, professor at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris. Since childhood, Schumann and Ravel have been among his favorite composers. Later, he found Berg and Bartók to be particularly inspiring. As stated by the musicologist Philippe Fourquet, "The music of Emmanuel Hieaux often develops freely around a narrative line. His analytical mind and his taste for detail do not interfere with his language in writing rules too strict and fixed. " In 1990 and 1991, he was laureate of the Robert Laurent-Vibert Foundation at the Château de Lourmarin and joined the Triptyque association in Paris. Since then, Emmanuel Hieaux has received many commissions for soloists or instrumental ensembles (the Ensemble Rhapsodes, the Pangea Trio, the Kocian Quartet, the violinist André Pons-Valdès, the pianists Ivan Klansky, Richard Damas and Bruno Belthoise). His works are recorded, played in France or abroad (Canada, Czech Republic, Chile, Portugal ...) and have been broadcast on France-Musique, Radio-Classique Québec, Prague Classique FM, as well as on Antena 2 to Lisbon.
The year of the baccalaureate, I intensively desired to undertake studies of biology in order to devote myself to research. Indeed, to go further in the objective observation of a fact and to try to interpret it according to the acquired knowledge that is constantly renewed and of its own intuition was for me a fabulous progress of rigor and freedom.
The Muse-IC project initiated by Judith Miné-Hattab was a remarkable opportunity to connect researchers and the composers: both reveal a fragment of their work to create new perspectives in their field. They are, in a way, archaeologists of renewal and progress.
The multiple and revealed unfolding of time, flush the ball reunion, for Bb clarinet, 2 violins, viola, cello, marimba and piano,
inspired by the topic: Double-strand Break: A Multi-scale Dance; proposed by Judith Miné-Hattab, Rodney Rothstein Laboratory, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, USA.
My introduction to the research topic of Judith Mine-Hattab was intense: carelessness, rupture and repair; here is a scientific tale, an allegory of life whose setting to music would allow me to unite the rigorous description of the discovery with the insolent and harmonious poetic license and to write a play in three movements framed by a prelude and a postlude in an uninterrupted unfolding. In a universe inhabited by entities that move in perfect fullness, a long double-strand of DNA appears, seduced and moved by an ever-growing desire; it wraps around them, tightens and becomes a tiny and dense ball that, in a rhythm more and more frantic, dances over the volcano. The break occurs. The split double-strand panics and suffers from having lost a part of itself. Followed by the time of the repair in which it must find its double that will give it the missing part and allow it to regain its unity. Once that is accomplished, peace is regained.
The numerous exchanges with Judith, as much biophysicist as musician, were enriching and fruitful both in objective observation and in subjective interpretation:
Setting up protagonists
- Title-role: double-stranded DNA is interpreted by the viola and the clarinet. Inseparable from each other, they will continue to dialogue, always united, whether in serenity, carelessness, desire, pain, suffering and peace found.
- The chorus: Proteins on which the double-strands are wound which are as many entities independent of each other; the piano, the marimba, the cello and the two violins will sing and dance in a melodic and rhythmic counterpoint.
- Multiple pulsations: Subjective interpretation of the causes of the break. Each of the entities breathes and moves on a pulse of its own. So many individual freedoms on which the double-strands seduce, wrap and come to life to the point of excess and rupture.
- Objective cutting of the repair time: Measuring this duration at smaller and smaller scales makes it possible to reveal, simultaneously with the apparent immobility of the elements, their more and more vivid movements.
This sincere and natural collaboration with Judith is a new milestone in my path. It will now allow me to make myself even more available to different concepts of our word and to interpret it in a fruitful and rigorous respect.
Thanks to Judith Mine-Hattab and Angela Taddei.
Born in Saint-Etienne, France, Denis RAMOS (1986) began his musical studies by learning classical guitar. A few years later, he obtained his Brevet of Execution Superior as interpreter at the Ecole Normale of Music of Paris in the class of Alberto Ponce. He holds a Master’s degree in musicology from La Sorbonne focused on working on a memoir on vocality in the work of Luciano Berio. He then joined the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris and was awarded two Master's degrees in writing and composition, as well as two higher awards in analysis and orchestration. He took composition lessons from Édith Canat de Chizy at the CRR in Paris, Arnulf Herrmann at the HfM in Berlin as part of the Erasmus exchange program, and Frédéric Durieux at the CNSM in Paris.
His works are broadcast throughout Europe, by performers, conductors and ensembles such as Jan Krejcìk, Jean-Philippe Wurtz, Philippe Aiche, Pieter-Jelle de Boer, Marc-Antoine Perrio, Remi Durupt, Marie Ythier, the Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain, the Abbaye-aux-Dames Orchestra and the Collectif Warning. In 2012, he received the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris scholarship for the career excellence, in 2014 he received the Meyer Foundation scholarship for artistic and cultural development and in 2017 the Salabert Foundation awarded him a Composition Prize for his Ensemble ensemble piece.
Aiôn, for clarinet, marimba, harp and string quartet
inspired by the subject: From the cell to the embryo: these crucial hours that shape us; proposed by the team of Nathalie Dostatni, Institut Curie, Paris, France.
Aiôn is a primordial deity in Greek mythology, as well as an ancient philosophical concept related to the infinitude of time. This word literally means "life span", then by extension "destiny" and "eternity".
It is in the perspective of a lifetime perpetuated to infinity that a correspondence began between the scientific research of Carmina Perez Romero and my own compositional research. I was struck by the beauty of the video clips made by the researchers: two films show, using microscopic vision, the first cell divisions of a Drosophila (fly) embryo. We see a group of cells that all at the same time divide to create each two new cells, and so on. The timing of videos is condensed so that we see in 1 minute what happens in 1.5 hours, thus enabling the cell life to be more perceptible to our senses and giving us the impression of attending a real organic ballet.
In my score I have developed a musical polyphony that reflects the processes of cell division and proliferation. The notion of cycle is fundamental. The polyphonic flow is divided into three instrumental groups: the string quartet, the clarinet / marimba duet, and the harp. A preamble and a postamble frame and complete this long sound process that unfolds for nearly eight minutes.
I also transposed musically, with a certain freedom, other phenomena that occur during this genesis, notably, the "nuclearization" of cells that takes place in the 14th cycle of cell division as well as the "mitotic wave" that results from the progressive shift of divisions from one cell to another.
The exchanges with Carmina Perez Romero and Nathalie Dostatni, both members of the research team "Epigenetic plasticity and polarity of the embryo", were decisive in the development of my piece. I had the chance to visit their laboratory at the Institut Curie, to meet part of the team, to learn more about their work and even to observe Drosophila under the microscope! This immersion in the world of scientific research was exciting and allowed me to go further in my creative process.
I am grateful to the Institut Curie and PSL University for making this enriching project possible, and I particularly thank Garance Alberman and Judith Miné-Hattab for their remarkable design of this innovative project.